The towering Christmas tree at New York City's Rockefeller Center is a hallmark of the season, and this year's tree, donated by wives Shirley Figueroa and Lissette Gutierrez, marks two firsts. The 72-foot Norway Spruce from their home in Walkill, N.Y. (about 30 minutes north of the city), is the first one donated by a same-sex couple or by a Latinx couple, according to The New York Times.
"Just the fact that I have a tree that I can donate when I came from somewhere that had no trees -- it's so surreal," Figueroa, who grew up in the Bronx, where she was surrounded primarily by concrete, told the Times.
When the couple, who've been married for six years, moved into their Hudson Valley home in 2017, they were told that Rockefeller Center had set its sights on the arboreal wonder. And while they're sad to see it leave their yard, they're pleased for the joy it will bring to people and the good it will do when it's donated to help build homes for Habitat for Humanity after the holiday season.
"We are so excited that after the holidays, wood from the tree will be used to build Habitat for Humanity homes," Figueroa said. "It really does feel like we're giving an incredible gift, first to New York, and second to the families who will move into Habitat homes."
"Shirley is more of a crier than I am," Gutierrez told the Poughkeepsie Journal about the tree leaving their property earlier this month. "So she's had some emotional moments. But we know it's going to a beautiful cause for everyone to enjoy."
Figueroa and Gutierrez's tree, which was lit in a televised ceremony on Wednesday, is topped by a brand-new nine-foot, 900-pound three-dimensional star that is laden with Swarovski crystals, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal. It is estimated that more than 800,000 people will view the tree while it's up.